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Political Mercury

Trump tags Cruz as ‘anti-Iowa,’ hostage of big oil

12/16/2015

Cruz wants to end ethanol mandate rural leaders see as key

Rising with a record-breaking Iowa Poll surge over the weekend, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says he doesn’t want to be drawn into a “cage match” with rival Donald Trump.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigned Friday night at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Photo by Douglas Burns

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigned Friday night at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Photo by Douglas Burns

But the billionaire businessman — who Friday night darted dizzyingly between praise and put downs when it came to Cruz — is clearly spoiling for that fight.

And Trump is greasing it with ethanol.

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“The oil pays him a lot of money,” Trump said of Cruz. “He’s got to be with the oil.”

Trump campaigned before a crowd of about 2,000 people at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. He took questions on the Renewable Fuels Standard, a grain-boosting federal mandate seen by a host of agricultural and business interests as central to the state’s economy. Cruz supports the elimination of the RFS.

“He’s talking against ethanol and everything else you’re talking about,” Trump said.

Trump added, “If Ted Cruz is against ethanol, how does he win in Iowa? That’s very anti-Iowa.”

The Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, with 31 percent support among likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers compared to 21 percent for Trump. Dr. Ben Carson is at 13 percent followed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 10 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 6 percent, according to the poll.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a firebrand conservative and darling of Iowa’s political right, has endorsed Cruz — a decision that confounds many ag-businesspeople who have spoken with this newspaper in recent days.

“I just don’t understand how King can support that with renewables being so important to Iowa,” said Dave Leiting, general manager of FAC Farmers Cooperative in Arcadia.

The RFS is vital for rural Iowa, meaning the Cruz support amounts to thousands of Republicans in the state aligning against their own economic interests, says Leiting, a political independent who said he generally identifies with the GOP politically.

“How could he be running so strong in Iowa?” Leiting said. “I don’t understand that.”

Jim Chism, chief executive of Ames-based Farmers Cooperative, said the RFS is on the top-tier of issues for the organization’s members.

Without it, Iowa farmers would have deal with a significant reduction in demand and price for grain, Chism said.

In the question-and-answer session Friday, Trump fielded a query about whether he’d select Cruz as a running mate or appoint him to the Supreme Court.

“I would say that we would certainly have things in mind for Ted,” Trump said.

He also challenged Cuban-American Cruz’s Christian faith.

“I do like Ted Cruz, but not a lot of evangelicals come from Cuba,” Trump said. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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